The finals of the 2014 Massachusetts History Day were held today at Stoneham High School in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
This year's theme was "Rights and Responsibilities in History." Junior high and high school students competed individually and in teams in these categories: Exhibit, papers, performance, documentary, and website. (Examples of national winners in prior years in each of these categories are listed on the National History Day site.)
Roughly 350 students from 50 schools were competing, supported by more than 80 teachers. Pictures from several of the exhibits and the first several awards at the ceremony are below.
Thanks to Kerin Shea, Northeast District Coordinator for Massachusetts History Day and the person responsible for the Massachusetts History Day social media outreach on Twitter, for the invitation. Kerin and all the rest of the people who put on Massachusetts History Day are volunteers. (In some states, History Day is handled by one or more paid staff.)
The exhibits were the only category of the finals I saw. They were well done, with considerable time and effort put into researching the topic and creating the exhibit.
A few observations:
- There were two on Miranda, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and women's rights.
- Only one focused on Boston (urban renewal and the West End).
- A few focused on international topics, including education for women, with a focus on Malala Yousafzai, the rights of Armenians, and the famine in Ireland.
- No on chose the Revolutionary period or the formation of our country. One chose the medieval period in Europe and roughly the same time period in Japan.
- A few dealt with the civil rights struggle.
- A few were surprising given this year's theme. These included animal testing, Muhammad Ali, in vitro fertilization, and pirate radio.
- One presented a historic incident that I'd never heard of: Prigg v. Pennsylvania.
Note that the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and many other topics were covered in entries in other categories.
Local efforts to engage high school students
The local historical society on whose board I serve has struggled to engage high schools students despite overhauling our annual scholarship. We raised the award to $1,000, changed the initial requirement from a finished project to submitting a proposal, and broadened the implementation to include various web and social media tools. (The 2014 scholarship is described in detail here.) I don't know whether or not students in our local high school are encouraged to participate in the state-level National History Day contest, but judging from the exhibits I saw and the auditorium full of students and parents, it's clear that some schools across the state are using History Day to great effect.
Other national programs
National History Day is one of three national programs encouraging high school students interested in history.
- National Histor — ClubFrom starting with one chapter just over ten years ago, the NHC has grown to involve 17,000 students in chapters in 44 states. As described on the organization's site, "The NHC inspires students and teachers to start History Club chapters at high schools, middle schools, and within other student and community programs. Members of local History Club chapters participate in local and national programs, and create their own projects and activities. The NHC also provides chapters with resources and services that will help them increase the activity and impact of their history club."
- National History Bee, the US History Bee, and the National History Bowl — Started within the last few years, these competitions for individuals ("Bee") and teams ("Bowl"), take place around the country and culminate with a national competition in the spring.
If there are other national programs aimed at fostering interest in history among junior high and high school students, please let us know.